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Game Scout: Arkansas at Alabama

The SportsXchange

KICKOFF: Saturday, 7 p.m. ET

GAMEDATE: 10/19/13

SITE: Bryant-Denney Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Ala.

TV: ESPN

SERIES: Alabama possesses a 13-8 advantage on Arkansas in a series which started when the Razorbacks joined the SEC in 1992. The Tide cruised to a 52-0 win last year in Fayetteville.

AP RANKINGS: Alabama No. 1, Arkansas unranked

KEYS TO THE GAME

Arkansas is coming off a 45-point loss at home to South Carolina and now must go on the road to face a team it lost to by 52 points a year ago.

The Razorbacks are at No. 1 Alabama Saturdaym to take on their fourth consecutive ranked opponent.

First-year coach Bret Bielema is taking a simple approach to get his players ready for an even bigger challenge from what they have faced in losing to ranked SEC foes Texas A&M, Florida, and South Carolina on consecutive Saturdays to fall to 3-4 on the season.

"I say don't be a Debbie Downer," Bieleman said in the message for his Hogs. "Just because history has happened in the past doesn't mean it needs to repeat itself.

"That's the easy way to go. It's an easy, simple way of thinking."

Bielema indicated that the Hogs are still dealing with bad memories of last season's collapse to a 3-9 record.

"This is the same team that has done some pretty positive things," Bielema said, "and a couple of bad things happen and our guys revert back to that.

"It's just something you have to get out of your system."

The game at Tuscaloosa will mark the eighth straight weekend the Razorbacks have played. They get the first of two bye weeks on Oct. 26, then begin the final month of the season by hosting Auburn on Nov. 2.

That could be the fifth week in a row they will be playing a ranked foe since the Tigers moved into the Associated Press poll following their rout of Western Carolina to improve to 5-1.

The Hogs go to Ole Miss the next week, get their second bye on Nov. 16, then finish against Mississippi State in Little Rock on Nov. 23 and at LSU on Nov. 29.

Much was made in the preseason of the Crimson Tide's SEC schedule not including SEC East powers Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. It turns out that Ole Miss wasn't quite ready for inclusion among the SEC West elite, either, removing a bit more heft from the Alabama schedule.

Saturday night's visit from Arkansas is being pegged by oddsmakers as another helping of blowout pie for Alabama.

The Razorbacks were embarrassed by South Carolina and are playing their eighth straight week, a recipe for disaster in such a difficult league like the SEC.

Bielema's run-first offensive system looks like a very good matchup for the Tide, which thrive on stopping opponents' running games and forcing them to pass. Alabama has allowed just 206 rushing yards the last four games.

By contrast, the Tide ran for 299 yards at Kentucky, a season high. Just don't dare to ask Saban about a slow start.

"If you don't get the results, don't get the immediate self-gratification -- instant coffee, instant tea, instant everything -- it's bad," he said. "Just because we didn't score the first three times we had the ball even though we moved the ball down the field, doesn't necessarily mean it was all bad."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Crimson Tide

--QB AJ McCarron rolled up 359 passing yards at Kentucky, making him part of a first-time milestone. The Tide combined that feat with two 100-yard rushers, which has never happened in program history. T.J. Yeldon added 124 ground yards and backup Kenyan Drake tallied 106.

--LB C.J. Mosley continued his team-leading tackling season at Kentucky with seven, giving him 48 at the regular season's halfway point. Mosley, who also has 3 1/2 tackles for loss, two quarterback hurries and a pass breakup, is a prime reason that Alabama has allowed just 16 points over the last four games.

--WR Kevin Norwood was honored as one of the offensive players of the week for his work at Kentucky, where he caught four passes for 81 yards and a TD, a 20-yard strike early in the fourth quarter. Norwood also hauled in a 42-yard catch, a season long for the senior, and is averaging 14.1 yards on 16 receptions this year.

Razorbacks

--RB Alex Collins has slowed somewhat after rushing for 100 yards in four of his first five games. But he still represents a threat to break a big play on any carry and is averaging 102.9 yards per game.

--WR Keon Hatcher is a threat not only for a big play as a receiver but is an effective runner as well. He has 11 receptions since missing the first two games with injury for 125 yards and also has run for 106 yards on just six carries.

--DE Chris Smith teams with junior DE Trey Flowers to give the Razorbacks the ability to pressure the passer from either side. Smith has six sacks, Flowers four.

--CB Tevin Mitchel is coming into his own in the secondary for the Hogs. He is credited with defending six passes (one interception, five breakups), which ranks 11th in the SEC, and is fifth on the team in tackles with 19.
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